Last year’s race-winner at Estoril, Jorge Lorenzo showed his strengths at the bwin.com Grande Prémio de Portugal again on Saturday as he followed up his free practice dominance with his fifth pole position performance of the year.
The Spaniard has not won from pole this year, but he will hope to do so on Sunday as he seeks to reduce the 30-point advantage his team-mate Valentino Rossi enjoys at the top of the standings. Lorenzo’s best Saturday time of 1’36.214 on the 27th of his 29 laps was enough to put him at the front of the grid for the round 14 contest.
On the other side of the Fiat Yamaha pit garage Rossi reminded his colleague that he will challenge him on Sunday whatever happens, the Italian lapping a quarter of a second behind Lorenzo.
A commendable effort by Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro), on his return to GP action after two months away due to illness, saw the Australian former World Champion bounce back with a front row result – courtesy of a best time just 0.054s slower than Rossi’s fastest.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) has been close to the front in all three sessions so far and is likely to be a threat from the front of the second row on Sunday. The Spaniard was around half a second off Lorenzo’s pace.
In fifth place again was the best performing satellite rider of the year so far, Colin Edwards, who has looked consistently fast throughout the weekend on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine.
Completing the second row is Randy de Puniet who no longer appears to be suffering from the ankle injury he picked up in the summer and looks back to his best for the LCR Honda team in 2009.
The third row features Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki), Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro), whilst the qualifying practice top ten was rounded off by Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing).
Héctor Barberá followed the example of Lorenzo, following up on his free practice dominance by securing pole position in the 250cc class.
The Pepe World Team rider, who will compete in MotoGP next year with the new Aspar Ducati team, ran out race-winner in the last round at Misano and could be set for another victory in an intriguing 250cc season – if his form so far this weekend is anything to go by.
Behind Barberá on the grid in second place Álvaro Bautista (Mapfre Aspar) will be trying to make up points on championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Racing Team) who completed a front row – which was separated by just 0.283s – behind World Champion Marco Simoncelli (Metis Gilera).
Trying to chase down the ‘big guns’ from row two will be Alex Debon (Aeropuerto-Castello-Blusens), the ever-consistent Raffaele de Rosa (Scot Racing), Mattia Pasini (with his new set-up Team Globalgest) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT SAG).
As he kept up determined charge towards the 2009 125cc World Championship Julián Simón continued his dominance of the single-cylinders by taking pole position by a 0.540s margin. Like his compatriots Lorenzo and Barberá, Simón has been fastest in every session for his category thus far in Portugal.
Simón was a second quicker than all of his rivals in both free practice sessions and again no-one was able to get close to him in the crucial qualifying outing, as he outdid the ‘best of the rest’ of the field by another clear gap, securing his sixth pole of the year.
Getting away just behind Simón on the grid will be Pol Espargaró (Derbi Racing Team), whilst Bradley Smith (Bancaja Aspar) produced a good late lap to qualify third – as the Englishman tries to prevent his championship leading team-mate from wrapping up the title on Sunday.
Marc Márquez (Red Bull KTM) completes the front row, whilst Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing), Nico Terol (Jack & Jones Team), Sandro Cortese (Ajo Interwetten) and Simone Corsi (Fontana Racing) are all on row two.
Tomorrow’s MotoGP race takes place at 1pm local time (GMT+1), with the 250cc race at 11.15am local and the 125cc race at the later than usual time of 2.30pm local.